News23ABC In-Depth


Search for missing swimmers highlights the dangers of the Kern River

Posted: 3:47 PM, Jul 06, 2022
Updated: 2022-07-06 21:10:23-04
Kern River (FILE)
Kern River (FILE)
Kern River (FILE)
Kern River (FILE)
Kern River (FILE)
Kern River (FILE)

LAKE ISABELLA, Calif. (KERO) — The search continues for the two swimmers who went missing in the Kern River on the 4th of July.

The Kern River may look enticing, especially as a way to get away from the heat but time and time again search and rescue teams are brought out to the area. This time searching for two men, one 19-year-old and one 27-year-old, who were last seen in the river.

"I think because there is no report of drowning necessarily, there was a report of a struggle in the water. There was a report of someone disappearing in the water, but there is always a possibility that these people did get out and might need to get rescued on shore," said Kern County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Lori Meza.

That is why despite more than 48 hours passing, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office says this is still not a body recovery mission.

Search crews are looking for any sign of 19-year-old Samuel Raymundo who was wearing a black shirt and black shorts and 27-year-old Diego Cabo who was wearing black shorts and a white shirt at the time they went into the river. The two men were with about 20 family members although only four went into the water. All were visiting from the Los Angeles area, which is not uncommon.

"A good amount of people coming from outside of the county and becoming victims. You do still see people from the area, but like I said it is not enough. We need to continue telling people to stay out and stay alive."

Search and rescue teams have had boats in the water daily with crews on the ground and a helicopter assisting as well. Meanwhile, the Red Cross says they always recommend people have a plan in case of emergencies like a designated person to call 9-1-1 as every second counts in these situations.

Multiple websites rank the Kern River as the most dangerous river in the United States. But it isn't just the U.S. The website WondersList ranks the Kern River #3 among its "15 Most Lethal Rivers in the World" just behind the Amazon River in South America and the Yellow River in China. However, these lists are often subjective and often take into account various different factors such as the population along the rivers, river deaths other than drowning, etc.

"That you have a designated water watcher whether that be in the pool at home or at the lake or beach. That way there is always someone looking out for you," says Taylor Poisall, regional communications director with the American Red Cross.

Poisal also says you should never ever swim alone and also know your physical limits.

"Knowing that sometimes we need more practice and maybe folks need swim lessons and look into that and learn CPR and first aid."

But the best advice, Meza can give is simply don’t go in.

"Even a life vest, for someone who doesn’t know the Kern River is not sufficient. Unless you are with a professional that can guide you, stay out of the Kern River."

She adds the case can change at any moment but the plans right now are to continue searching for the rest of the week. If you have any information, you can reach out to KCSO.

23ABC In-Depth

Cases like these are always an unfortunate reminder to be extra cautious when visiting the Kern River.

Along with the safety information shared by the Red Cross, 23ABC also took an in-depth look and found some more tips to keep in mind for you and your family when visiting the Kern River.

According to the Kern River Conservancy, it is always important to check river and stream conditions before heading out. You can find river and stream condition information at visitor centers, ranger stations, and weather alerts.

Plus it's always good to let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

The Conservancy also urges everyone to follow "no swimming" signs.

And finally, never swim or wade upstream from a waterfall, even if the water appears shallow or calm.

More Tips from the Kern River Conservancy:

  • Slippery rocks, an unstable shoreline or even a distraction that takes your focus away from the water, can cause an accident -- quickly and quietly.
  • Check river and stream conditions before heading out on your adventure and always let someone know where you are going and when you will return. River and stream condition information may be found at visitor centers, ranger stations, and from weather alerts.
  • Inquire about swimming regulations. At some recreation sites, swimming is not recommended or may even be prohibited. Follow "No Swimming" signs.
  • Where allowed, choose swimming areas carefully. Often hazards are not visible in what may seem like a good place to swim or wade.
  • Wear a properly fitting personal floatation device (life jacket) for all river activities. Don’t assume you have the swimming skills to keep you afloat, even the strongest swimmers can drown.
  • When near rapids or other moving water, always stay on the established trails or developed areas.
  • Keep a close watch on children even if they are far from the water. Water safety for children is especially important as they can quickly enter the water and get in trouble when your attention is diverted for only a moment.
  • Never walk, play or climb on slippery rocks and logs near rivers and streams.
  • Never swim or wade upstream from a waterfall, even if the water appears shallow or calm.
  • Be cautious of sudden drop-offs.